The Court of Criminal Appeal has upheld the six-year sentence imposed on a legally blind man who strangled a 60-year-old after calling to his apartment to service his computer.
Michael Byrne (aged 38), formerly of Clonard Road, Crumlin, Dublin, was charged with murdering Denis Brennan at Bow Bridge complex, Kilmainham, Dublin, between July 5 and July 8 2008.
He was jailed for six years by Mr Justice Paul Carney in July last year having pleaded guilty to manslaughter by way of provocation.
Byrne told gardaí in interview that he “flipped out” and attacked Mr Brennan after the victim directed him to pornographic images on a computer and grabbed him in a sexually offensive manner.
The court noted that Mr Brennan’s family fully reject the basis on which the manslaughter plea was accepted and that they find such basis deeply offensive.
Counsel for Byrne, Ms Isobel Kennedy SC, told the court that by imposing a six-year sentence the sentencing judge had failed to take in to account her client’s lack of previous convictions and the remorse he had shown in the period after his arrest.
She said that Mr Justice Carney did not give sufficient weight to Byrne’s physical and mental health difficulties, afflictions which she described as having “cataclysmic consequences” for his quality of life.
Ms Kennedy also said that the sentencing judge had failed to indicate whether he had taken into account the mitigating factors in Byrne’s favour when calculating the appropriate term of imprisonment.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, sitting with Mr Justice Declan Budd and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, said that during the sentence hearing every possible mitigating factor in favour of Byrne had been brought before the judge.
Given that the sentence was imposed just three days after the evidence was heard, he said that it was “not conceivable” that Mr Justice Carney would have failed to consider Byrne’s lack of previous convictions or his demonstrated remorse.
Mr Justice McKechnie said that the sentencing judge had asserted the offence was at the “lower end” of the midrange scale for manslaughter offences and that a term of six years imprisonment could not be said to be at odds with this assessment.
Mr Justice McKechnie said that although disability was a mitigating factor, it could never be of itself considered a means by which an offender could avoid prison.
He said that Byrne had committed “quite a serious offence” in manually strangling and inserting a yellow plastic glove down the throat of the victim.
Mr Justice McKechnie said that Byrne made no attempt to alert gardaí after the strangulation, that he had given a false alibi in his initial interview and that the identification of Byrne as a suspect would have been significantly delayed had it not been for CCTV footage of him entering the apartment complex.
Dismissing the appeal, he said that the court could not see how a sentence of six years could be said to have been inappropriate relative to the circumstances of the offence.
The judgement was accompanied by shouts of “yes” from the public gallery.